A stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
Candlewick Press, 2018, ISBN 9780763665968
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Themes: Grief, Pets, Journeys, Wordless stories. Aaron Becker's "A stone for Sascha" is a cinematic wordless picture book that begins with the loss of family pet, Sascha the dog. From the simple act of placing a golden stone on the grave, we are transported across the world, across millennia, into epic world events as we follow the stone's journey. Aaron Becker drew inspiration from his time in Granada, Spain observing the history of the buildings, where he observed churches built atop Roman ruins. The maps on the endpapers reference the stone's travels from Ethiopia 5000BCE then Babylon 600BCE, by sea and overland across continents, Asia to China then across the Pacific Ocean to the San Juan Islands. Becker's choice of dark, moody tones with bright touches of yellow and white are visually appealing.
Without words, the pictures are evocative, connecting the reader first with the little girl's grief, then with one toss of a stone into the vast ocean, back in time to a meteor shower and the golden stone's shattering landing. This turning point changes the story's direction from deep in the prehistoric ocean, to tectonic plates shifting, to the golden rock shard emerging in ancient Ethiopia. Through wars, religious ceremonies, travels by land and sea, pirate attacks this golden monument's purpose evolves and changes. After the Chinese sculptor carves the bridge's capstone into a golden box and stunning dragon the story continues edging closer and closer to the San Juan Islands and the little girl's hands. Becker's message of connectivity and the circle of life is beautifully portrayed.
"A stone for Sascha" is a picture book for older readers, one to be shared across the generations, opening up conversations about the passage of time, historic events and coping with grief. Becker's paintings are sweeping landscapes, then slices of history, close-ups and panoramic with an emotional depth shown through tone and light and shade. With Becker's cinematic background, this wordless picture book would translate beautifully into film.